NATURE and science are integral to the whole being of music” says Clare Norburn, co-director of the Brighton Early Music Festival, on the topic of this year’s artistic theme. “The first instruments were natural items, like pieces of bone. We’re interested in how instruments have evolved.”

Norburn’s wider point is that music has become more geared towards power and volume in recent centuries, all the time moving away from the intricacy and subtlety that certain instruments were designed for.

The emergence of the concert hall as a music venue in the 19th century was a big factor behind this shift, says Norburn. “Music has evolved to be loud to suit those kind of arenas. Before that point, people made music in theatres and at private gatherings.” Featuring various music styles from before the 20th century, the festival seeks to reintroduce that element of intimacy into the art of performance.

“I think if you ask audiences what they like about our event, they enjoy being up close to the music. It doesn’t have to be a big artist on stage and the little people on the floor.” Twenty six performances will occur across a range of Brighton and Hove venues including six churches. Below, Norburn previews three of the big draws of the festival.


St Paul’s Church, Saturday, October 29, 7.30pm.

Script by Clare Norburn. A music drama on the life and discoveries of scientist Galileo Galilei.

“Galileo came from a family of musicians – he played the loot with his father. His father echoed in the musical world what was happening in the scientific world. He challenged the prevailing musical tuning system of the day, in the same way that Galileo challenged the Aristotelian viewpoint of the cosmos, which held that the Earth was at the centre of the universe. They both took down the establishment in that sense.”

Fairest Isle and Foulest Weather

All Saints Church, Sunday, November 6, 7.30pm.

Music from The Tempest by Matthew Locke and King Arthur by Henry Purcell.

“There are extracts from The Tempest by Locke which is instrumental music. There is also a bit of Purcell’s (opera) King Arthur, which has a very wintry feel to it. Purcell has a shivering sound, with very short, shimmering notes like the ice is cracking. The composers find interesting ways to inject the feeling of being cold into music.”

GAIA - Three Intermedi for a Living Planet

St Bartholemew’s Church, Saturday, November 12, 3pm.

Telling the story of our Earth and how we have perceived it through the ages, from the core to the skies.

“This event features contemporary stage, lighting and film that goes alongside the 16th and 17th century music. During this time there were a number of interesting musical interludes, big visual spectacles, called Intermedi. It was like a mix of circus and music. We thought it would be great to recreate our own Intermedi, stringing lots of composers together into a big spectacle.”

Brighton Early Music Festival, Friday, October 28, to Sunday, November 13, various venues, For full programme and tickets, visit, For any other enquiries, call 01420 86267